Planning Community Gardens : Soils and Slopes at the University of Wisconsin--Eau Claire Priory, West Central Wisconsin
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In 2011, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Foundation purchased the 112 acre property south of town known as the Priory. Previous research indicates loess-derived soils are thin or absent on the ridge top and thin and poorly developed on adjacent slopes due to severe, EuroAmerican agriculture-induced erosion and are not suitable for community gardens. The purpose of our research is to determine if lower slope and valley settings are appropriate for community gardens, based on: public accessibility, access to sunlight, well water availability, and appropriate soil fertility. Two soil profiles in toeslope and two in valley positions were described using Natural Resource Conservation Service methods. The other criteria were assessed using ESRI ArcGIS software (hillshade and slope aspect tools) and LIDAR data. Soil profiles observed formed in sandy bedrock and glacial outwash-derived alluvium (valley) and slopewash (toeslope) overlain by silt (redeposited loess eroded from above). Degree of development (A-Bt-Bw-C, valley; and A-Bw-C toeslope) and presence of buried soils in some toeslope positions suggest erosion has been episodic throughout the Holocene, but particularly since the advent of EuroAmerican agriculture since the 1850s. We recommend community gardens be established where soils in toeslope and valley settings are most suitable (fertile silty solums over sandy alluvium), the water table is near the surface, and on sunny south-facing slopes near existing access roads.